‘Lost’ Southwick films found and restored

On location down by Southwick Ship Canal
On location down by Southwick Ship Canal

Film archives from the early days of the Southwick Players have been saved, thanks to president Gary Cook.

Reels dating back to the 1940s were discovered in a sorry state, having been stored in a cupboard for decades.

Southwick Players in the garden of the community centre, before it was refurbished

Southwick Players in the garden of the community centre, before it was refurbished

Gary took on the job of sorting out the Players’ archives a few years ago, thinking he would be simply cataloguing old programmes, tickets, newspaper cuttings and scripts.

Imagine his surprise when he discovered three hefty reels of 16mm film in canisters dating from 1947.

Further investigation revealed the emulsion delaminating from the base but, intrigued, Gary contacted Hove Museum, which has a dedicated film section.

The museum put him in touch with Screen Archive South East, which agreed to take on the huge restoration project.

There was a waiting list, so it was not until early this year that Gary received two DVDs, the digitised versions of the archive films.

Gary said: “We showed the archive film to about 30 members of Southwick Players and everyone loved them. Some members became quite emotional, as I did myself when I watched them for the first time.

“They were windows into the past of our company showing the depth of history, love and artistry that the Southwick Players heritage rests on, as well as being a sociological window into a vanished past.”

The films show a time capsule of the early days of the Players, ranging from film of Southwick Community Centre around 1947 and the Players on stage to some colour snippets taking the viewer to 1963. There is even a complete, costumed smuggler film, set both inside and on location.

The Players’ annual rehearsed play readings evening proved the perfect opportunity to show these archive films.

This social event gives new directors, budding authors and members an opporunity to hone their skills in a relaxed atmosphere in front of family, friends and members.

Everyone present was excited to see the ‘lost’ films and to build the dramatic effect, Gary added some incidental music to the silent films.